“We call it diplomacy, minister” (and what would Churchill and Thatcher think?)

April 01, 2017

Above, Margaret Thatcher campaigning for Britain to join the European Union.


This is another dispatch also concerning Brexit, one of an occasional series of dispatches not directly concerning the Middle East.


[Note by Tom Gross]

On Wednesday Britain invoked Article 50 and formally started the process to leave the European Union. I was in Washington DC for a conference at which I debated Michael Gove, the former British Education and Justice minister and a lead proponent of Brexit, about the future of Europe.


Afterwards I took time off to visit the Holocaust museum – a reminder of what happened before Europe was united.

The photos below are on display at the museum: they are of U.S. generals Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, and Eddy standing over the burned bodies of prisoners at the Ohrdruf death camp (a subcamp of Buchenwald), after its liberation by U.S. troops on April 12, 1945.


Three days later Eisenhower issued a statement: “The things I saw beggar description… The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were overpowering… I made the visit deliberately in order to give first-hand of evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda’.”

I am not suggesting that Brexit may set in motion a train of events that might lead to war. But I am concerned that it will weaken European unity and help the rise of nationalist and extreme-right wing parties, which would in turn likely lead to an unstable future for Europe and the West (which is why Russia’s President Putin has been cheering Brexit and promoting the French National Front ahead of next month’s French elections).

It is also worth recalling that Britain’s greatest Prime Minister, the conservative Winston Churchill, was the first British prime minister to suggest the idea of the EU in the first place.

In his famous Zurich speech of 1946, Churchill said, “We must build a kind of United States of Europe. The structure of the United States of Europe, if well and truly built, will be such as to make the material strength of a single state less important… If at first all the States of Europe are not willing or able to join the Union, we must nevertheless proceed to assemble and combine those who will and those who can.”

He repeated these ideas many times. For example, at London’s Albert Hall, in May 1947, Churchill spoke as Chairman and Founder of he United Europe Movement to “present the idea of a United Europe in which our country will play a decisive part.”



Here is a short TV interview with me a few minutes after Article 50 was invoked:


This is among the TV interviews I gave on Brexit a few days before the vote last year (June 16, 2016):



Some would say that this three decade-old clip, lasting under 2 minutes, from the classic BBC comedy show “Yes, Minister,” tells us all we need to know about Brexit.




Spanish politician Esteban González Pons has passionate words on the future of Europe: “Brexit is one of the most selfish decisions ever made.”

Video here.



Here are two more interviews by one of Margaret Thatcher’s former senior ministers, Lord Michael Heseltine, speaking out against Brexit.

On Channel 4. (Or here.) On BBC 2



Among previous dispatches on Brexit:

* “After Brexit, Britain suddenly becomes European”

* Harvard Professor: Britain’s “lunatic referendum formula isn’t democracy”



While in DC, I also visited Washington DC’s newly opened National Museum of African-American History and Culture. The museum spans three stories underground (starting with the story of slavery at the hands of the Portuguese, Spanish, British, French and Dutch, through to the civil rights movement), to four stories overground, charting the considerable achievements of African-Americans today.

The church, merchants, families and individuals all benefitted from the slave trade. Only a small minority of slaves were taken to the U.S. – most went to south and central America, and one only hopes that those countries, as well as the European nations responsible for this crime, will one day institute museums as moving and impressive as this one in America.


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All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.